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Lakers great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar encouraged by Andrew Bynum’s progress

Lakers special assistant coach Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has taken on fewer duties this season as he battles leukemia, but the NBA’s all-time leading scorer likes what he sees in Andrew Bynum.

The education of the 22-year-old center continues week by week, game by game.

“I think he’s running the court real well, really keeping up with the play,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “He’s using his left hand, keeping his body between the ball and the defender and just shooting it over people. That was the hardest thing when we first started. He didn’t want to use his left hand at all. Now he’s comfortable with it. It’s happening for him.”

It’s hard to argue with Abdul-Jabbar. Bynum is averaging 18.2 points and 9.8 rebounds, numbers that were actually higher before Pau Gasol returned to the lineup.

Bynum had 13 points and six rebounds Sunday in the Lakers’ 108-88 victory over the Phoenix Suns.

On one third-quarter play, he turned in the post and hit a six-footer despite a double-team from Grant Hill and Channing Frye. He was fouled on the play and made the free throw.

Kobe Bryant ran over to him before the free throw, tapped him excitedly on the shoulder and smiled.

Defense will be the key from here, as usual with Bynum.

“He’s learning about the things he needs to do on defense, but that’s still an ongoing process,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “He’s definitely making a difference with the blocked shots that he has. He’s starting to become a factor. When he gets that part of the game down, when that catches up to his offense, he’s going to be a very, very good center.”

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Bynum needs to anticipate better, keeping his head on a swivel and helping out when necessary, Abdul-Jabbar said.

“He’s getting there,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “I’m very pleased with what he’s been able to bring to the team. His body’s maturing. Lots of good things.”

Kareem feeling strong

A month after revealing he had been diagnosed with Philadelphia chromosome-positive chronic myeloid leukemia, Abdul-Jabbar said he was “doing well.”

“I have to take my medication, go to the doctor regularly and have my blood examined, but that’s part of it,” he said. “As long as I can do that, I can manage this situation and live my life. I think I’m very fortunate that that’s possible.”

Abdul-Jabbar actually found out that he had the disease last December, but went public with it only a month ago.

He attends fewer Lakers practices than he has in the last few seasons but still goes to many home games.

“I’m not at every practice, but I’m watching [Bynum] and when I have stuff to deal with him, I go and talk to him about it,” he said.

Abdul-Jabbar’s type of leukemia is a cancer of the blood and bone marrow that produces cancerous blood cells.

mike.bresnahan@latimes.com

twitter.com/Mike_Bresnahan


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